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Elizabeth Downing Taylor Education. (2012) 2012 National Book Festival Elizabeth Downing Taylor, 'A Slave In the White House Paul Jennings and the Madisons.'

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Washington 35, Paul Jennings 27, Andrew Blum 10, Virginia 9, Ashburn 6, London 6, Monticello 6, Jefferson 5, Dolley 5, Webster 5, Mr. Blum 5, Goldman Sachs 4, Manhattan 4, Los Angeles 4, Montpelier 4, Us 3, U.s. 3, Payne Todd 3, Kenya 3, Google 3,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Elizabeth Downing Taylor  Education.  (2012) 2012 National  
   Book Festival Elizabeth Downing Taylor, 'A Slave In the...  

    December 24, 2012
    7:15 - 8:29am EST  

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itself, a courtroom thriller built around what the impeachment trial, had there been one, might have looked like there i want to emphasize again, i write this as a fan of lincoln, not as a vote. >> stephen carter we been talking to the national book festival. "the impeachment of abraham lincoln," if you want to know how it turns out, here's the book. you can buy to sell. stephen carter, thank you for joining us here in booktv for a few minutes. >> my pleasure, thank you so much. >> next, from the 12 annual national book festival, elizabeth dowling taylor presents her book, "a slave in the white house: paul jennings and the madisons." it's about 45 minutes. >> good afternoon. first i am a first time author, and i'm thrilled to be here. [applause]
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this was a true labor of love. i researched my topic for three years and spent a year-plus writing it. it is hummabling and gratifying to see it so well received, and to be following walter isakson, robert caro, and tony. [applause] i came to develop a strong interest in paul jennings when i was director of education at james madison's month peelier in virginia. i was familiar with jennings' memoir considered by the white house historical association to be the first memoir of life in the white house. it was titled "a colored man's rem innocences of james madison," and as the title
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implies, it's really more about the so-called great man than it was about the author himself. my interest was in paul jennings. i set out to discover elements of his own biography to uncover the circumstances behind the original publication of the memoir in 1865 and to find an interview living direct descendents. a slave in the white house, paul jennings and the madisons is the story of paul jennings' unique journey from slavery to freedom. it played out in the highest circles of ideas and power. the white house, james madison's study. it's the story of paul jennings' complicated relationship with the father of the constitution,
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james madison. jennings was the constant servant in james madison's study, and as madison would discuss political subjects of the day, and during his retirement review his life's work designing and defending natural rights and self-government, paul was there to hear it all, and in the book, i developed the thesis that he was able to absorb the theoretical underpinnings that would allow him to identify his innate yearning for freedom as a natural right of man. jennings and madison developed a close bond of mutual respect, but they never were able to all together bridge that very deep
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divide between white ellite and black slaves. nevertheless, jennings had reason to expect that he would be freed by the terms of james mandyson's will. when it didn't happen, he was given to understand that madison and his wife, dolly, had come to an understanding before he died that she would free all the 100 montpelier slaves at her death, and, indeed, when she wrote a will of her own a few years after that, she had a term giving freedom to my man, paul, the only slave so treated. she and her son, by her first marriage, payne todd, who plays the role of foil to jennings in the book, payne todd had every advantage in life and squander
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them, jennings had no vangs, but managed to carve out a life of meaning, nevertheless. dolly and her son, payne, were selling slaves a mere two months after her husband died. now, in 1838, dolly madison moved back to washington. she owned a house on i lafayette square, a block and a half from the white house. jeepings was a member of the -- jennings was a member of the staff so like it or not, he went back to washington too. he had come of age in washington, serving on the madison domestic staff from age 10 to age 18. he had considered running away when that period of time was up, but instead, in the end, went back to montpelier. after all, that was his home too. he was not ready to never see
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his mother and other kin again, and he was the only eyewitness who left an account at the desk of james madison, but now, dolly madison was selling month peelier, and that separated jennings from his own wife and children. he had married an enslaved woman at a nearby plantation to month montpelier, and that meant their five chirp, as they came along, were owned by his wife's owner. they had barely been able to get together by once a week, and now, jennings was moving from virginia all together. his wife dies about the same time. now these are motherless children back in virginia. the youngest, only two years old. now, dolly is hurting
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financially, even after selling montpelier. she hires jennings out to work in the james pulp white house so he has a second experience working in the white house. at one point, the president and dolly gave him permission to go back to virginia to visit his family, but he stayed longer than dolly approved. now he was on her bad side. he determined that he could wait no longer for his otonomy r for his freedom. that's when he went to daniel webster, and even as a slave, it helped to know people in high places, and webster, jennings knew that webster had come to the aide of other slaves in need, but he said hi could never own a slave so his mo was to extend the purchase price and
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then have the newly freed individual work for webster in his household to pay off the purchase price, and that's the deal that he struck with jennings. dolly sold jennings for $200. webster allowed jennings to pay back the purchase price at the rate of $8 a month. he freed him immediately. finally, at age 48, paul jennings is a free man. his story after his freedom is as compelling as the one before that event. he became a leading member of the washington free black community, and in 1848, he was an operative in an underground railroad activity that turned out to be the largest scale ever
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attempted slave escape known to historian as the pearl episode. 77 enslaved men, women, and children of washington, including a run away teenage slave of dolly madison's named ellen stuart, boarded a scooter and hid themselves hoping to make it to freedom in the north. it was not to be. the plan was foiled by contrary winds and by a turncoat in the black community. this schooner left the harbor, but immediately there were light winds on the river that really slowed the vessel down, but when it got to chesapeake, the winds were too rough to enter the bay and had to hunker down. with the informant, that meant
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the white owners in washington became aware sooner rather than later. this was a sunday now, that their slaves had master minded working with white northern abolitionists as well as local black operatives like paul jennings, an escape, and they were after them, found them, and pulled the schooner back to washington as well as the human cargo, and those on board now faced the fate most dreaded which was sail to the deep south and permanent separation from home and family. ..
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which freedom themselves. and along the same year or so, and along t he also sat for his -- this is r the only malone likeness of paul jennings or of any montpelier slave. and i first set eyes on it at the home of paul jennings great-granddaughter, sylviapaul jennings alexander. she was the family historian, the keeper of the jennings family tradition.
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family oral tradition and several jennings direct descendants are in the audience today. knocked mrs. alexander. she died year-and-a-half after i got to know her. she was by far the last survivor of that generation. her father, her grandfather, paul's son franklin lived to be 90 and she spent a lot of her growing up years in her grandparents's home. so she was able to hear these family stories from the 's mouths. her own father was a slave and her grandfather was a slave until age 20 himself. this is rare in 2008 when i met her and she had this likeness of paul jennings on her living-room wall. very rare to be able to debrief the slave descendant whose family stories do go back to
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slavery days. getting to know all of the descendantss but especially sylvia jennings alexander, very much informed my story and enriched my life. i interpret paul jennings's story as a deliberate, courageous and successful pursuit of that most american of promises, the right to rise. after jennings had worked for webster for several years he got himself a low level but steady job working for a government agency, the pension office which was under the department of the interior and this was the best job that a free black at this time, talking about the >> guest: 50s when he first got this position that they might hope to find.
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really coveted position. jennings reunited with his children and they all lived together in northwest washington in a neighborhood that included tax slaves not only of present the best president madison but also president washington -- jennings married a second wife. so he had a new job. a new wife, was reunited with his children and he bought this property, a wood frame modest house at 18 street in northwest washington. he worked in the pension office
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for many years and in 1861 there was a new co-worker named john brooks russell. if you read a colored man's reminiscences of james madison and the entire memoir is included as an appendix in my book you will see that it starts with a preface. and intelligent colored man who works in the department of the interior. he was an eye witness to important history and i thought his recollections worth writing down in almost his own words. paul jennings was himself litter and learned to read and write as a slave. i discovered j.d. are was john brooks russell. he was the one who submitted to a history magazine in 1863 and
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two years later it was published as a slim volume by the same name with jennings's by line on the title page. there were very few copies ever printed. i am thankful that it was not altogether lost to history. it has been quoted by historians over the years especially the passages about the war of 1812 and we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of that war today. jennings had an exciting wartime adventures as he came of age and played a major role in helping madison rescue the enormous iconic stewart likeness of george washington just before the british burned the white house. this was in 1814. a hot august day. madison had gone to the front.
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the only commander-in-chief to join troops at the front. it was ten miles from washington and when those who stayed behind in the white house, paul jennings and a couple other members of the domestic staff, madison had a writer ride as hard as he could to the white house and informed the denison's to clear out, clear out. general armstrong has ordered a retreat and jennings wrote in his memoir that altman was chaos. dolley madison that the white house treasures and jumped into her carriage but before she dashed off she turned to jennings and the other remaining behind for the moment and said save that portraits of george washington. do not allow the british to defile this important image of the father of our country.
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dolley madison deserves the credit for the impulse but paul jennings and two of his co-workers are actually the ones who deserve the credit for rescuing the portrait himself. rather miraculously it was carried off as a giant stretch of can this. you may have heard it was cut out with a knife and rolled up. not true. present-day conservationists prove that it was never cut out, never rolled up. with great effort this frame was broken and the large picture carried away to safety to a barn in maryland. jennings's legacy includes the authorship of the first white house memoir and a major role in rescuing of a portrait of george
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washington. but there are other important elements to his legacy as well. first of all, there is a living legacy, his descendantss today and i have a feeling paul jennings would be particularly proud of that legacy. these are, many of them, washingtonians but they lived in all four corners of the country but almost without exception they are people of high achievement who like their ancestors, value family, education, activism. paul jennings had a granddaughter, his namesake named pauline. she was the daughter of a slave. she married the son of a slave
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and yet he got an m.d. from howard university with a practicing physician in georgetown where they own a home which is a pretty remarkable opportunity given only one generation out of slavery. a very remarkable achievement. their son was an m.d. as well and he is one of my favorite jennings descendants. i like to think that he inherited his ancestor's genes for race activism. as an african-american doctor, he could not go to just any medical school. the about practice in just any hospital. black doctors were not even allowed to join the a am a. he was very active in agitating against these restrictions but
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he didn't limit his activism to greater opportunities for members of his profession. he spearheaded a petition drive to keep a recreational area in georgetown from becoming segregated and he published bold editorials on race in the washington post and other newspapers. that is the living legacy. i am also fascinated by the legacy of place in washington. it was 1809 when paul jennings first came to washington to be part of the white house staff. he found washington than a dreary place. pennsylvania ave wasn't even paved but i think soon enough suffering from homesickness he went on to realize that he was at the start of a great adventure and would be an
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important eyewitness to history. he witnessed a lot of history in washington. he died he in 1874 after marion for a third time. mrs. alexander did know about that when i told her she said she wasn't surprised that her grandfather said that he was the jim dandy and that characterization in her mind went along with this idea that at 71 he would marry for a third time. she told me the family story of how he learned to read and write. he learned in the presence of the little master or the white boy. this might well have been dolley's son payne todd who would be the object of the instruction and jennings would be standing to the side but listening and absorbing and
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learning. in the book i presented perhaps the first instance of jennings taking advantage of his position. he was the good listener and a good network. there are so many places he was associated with that are extent in washington today. one of them is not his own house. his own house located where else street and 18 intercept. some of you may remember until very recently was border's books and i would go there and i would go into the cafe. i was sitting in my coffee thinking i could be at paul jennings's kitchen table right now and unfortunately they went out of business so i never had a chance to do a book talk there. extent buildings where jennings lives andor worked would be the
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winter building to the west of the white house. washington's first i rise. the 5 story building still used by government offices today where the pension office of the partriorme of asirst located and then move to the patent office building. you know it as the grant structure that houses two smithsonian museums. the dolley madison house where jennings live with his mistress until he became free in 1847, that also is there today. paul jennings would have been on the cellar level. after the burning of the white house, the madison white house never lived in the white house again. the temporary white house became the octagon. the octagon is another of the
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buildings still in washington. it was there that james madison signed the treaty again that ended the war of 1812 and jennings writes that on that occasion everyone in the household was thrilled to hear that news had finally arrived. jennings said he played the president's march on the violin. 7s were instructed to pour wine literally including for themselves and jennings rights that the french steward was drunk for two days. never he said was there such an exciting time in washington. and then there is the white house and two years from now will be the 200th anniversary of the rescue of the portrait of
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george washington which i would submit has allowed all americans to identify this event as the kind of highlight of be more of 1812 instead of shrinking in sadness that the white house was ever burned by an enemy. paul jennings does have a one of the kind story. he purchased his own freedom, secured his family's future, he uses his literacy to write free passes and free papers for other slaves, he contributed to the raising of funds for slaves in dire need for a purchase from their masters.
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it was in 1809 that james madison took the oath of office as fourth president promising to protect and defend the constitution that he helped found. it was 200 years later that we all watched the 44th president take that same oath. it took 200 years, a shamefully long time, but we did progress from the only allowable role for a black man in the white house to be a liveried footman like paul jennings to the first african-american president and his family making their home in that historic structure. [applause]
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>> president barack obama would be the first to acknowledge that is rapidly rising star was hitched to paul jennings and to untold number of other african americans whose stories may never be known but who like jennings overcame a barrage of obstacles to rise. it has been said there is nothing truly new in this world but the history that we have yet to learn. thank you so much. [applause] >> turning to the early part of your book. when doing your research define
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any conversations between madison and his predecessor jefferson? they were neighbors and in terms of the slaves, they talk about things you spoke about. you find forces where they conversed and shared their ideas? >> i don't know that i found any firsthand conversations between the two of them on this subject. i can tell you that they had very similar views about it. they understood that slavery was immoral. and abominable crime, jefferson called it. madison said that it was a moral, economical and social evil. jefferson acknowledged that if it ever came down to a war between slaves and slave owners there was no question on which side god would be. see an end t.
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how what do we do with them, the free blacks? we can't change -- share the country with them. was the concept of colonization came to the 4 that would involve free blacks transported to finally after some other possibilities transported to west africa to liberia. mattison said this concept gave
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him an opportunity to if not be so disillusioned about the future because he envisioned it as the green light to begin with gradual emancipation. however he called this a double operation and he thought that the country should not embark on emancipation until it was firmly coupled with colonization. that one should not begin the first half of this double operation until they were sure of the second half and that was not to be. there was -- monticello and monday leader are 20 miles apart. madison's manservant every time he went to monticello all with the company him. he certainly got to know the various monticello slaves and their were monticello slaves that were part of jefferson's white house that prevent heart of madison's white house.
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one fellow in particular named john freeman was purchased by president madison from president jefferson at the transition to the administration and he was married for a member of monticello's well-known family. there was plenty of interaction between the two plantations. jennings wrote in his memoir that jefferson and madison were as intimate as any two brothers could be. >> let me ask a question about does the author, does he characterized present madison, does he write a character sketch of him? >> he does. you have to remember that there are issues of candor in the memoir like this. john boruk forceful was an
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amateur historian and he got to learn about the back story of his co-worker in the pension office and i can hear him approaching paul jennings and saying i understand you used to work for president madison. what was that like? i think you have to remember how that might, what jennings talks and does not talk about. that is my frustration with the memoir. i wanted to learn more about what jennings got and what he was all about. he does characterize james madison as one of the best and to whoever lived. he says as a slave owner he would never allow his overseers to with the slaves. and in the part of the whole point of my book is to talk about complex relationship between the two of them.
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the madisons and sinise said paul jennings was in abbott with freedom. absolutely. he was learning at the feet of the master and he took it in and realize as well as the next man that learning and liberty have a direct connection with one another and i don't think there's any doubt that madison would have approved of paul thinking that way. he understood individual rights of the gift of nature. with dolley it got to be even more complicated because dolley promised as i mentioned in her will to free paul jennings but in the end he doubted that she would follow through on that and he couldn't wait any longer until she might die anyway. she didn't follow through on her husband's will who wanted her not to free any of the slaves except for those who might
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misbehave. this is typical about slave owners. there is always that easily justified course of action that they can choose to take. dolley madison despite the fact that she sold paul jennings setting the price at $200 and acknowledged this was a low price because of his service. what impresses me is jennings had a great generosity of spirit because when he was working for western he would go to dolley madison. by this time jennings -- desired the necessities of life. he would come with a basket fulls of provisions and give her small sums of money from his own pocket. that impresses me.
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>> frederick douglass says it is the cruelest master who brings you very close -- the good masters someone who -- you are eating from his table and wearing his hand me down clothes and have a lot of liberty but that is the cruelest master because he brings you so close but at the same point you don't have your liberty. jennings eventually wanted his freedom but also hercules who is george washington's slave, he ran away. how deep was paul jennings's motivation to gain his freedom? >> let me say as someone who was responsible for interpretation at monticello and montreal your visitors will come and want the
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interpreter to assure them that jefferson, madison, they were good masters and i will not answer such a question directly and instead what i'd do is quote frederick douglass saying the feeding and clothing of me cannot atone for taking my liberty away. it wasn't so much the living conditions of slaves in the upper south at this time that was the most profound and bawling parts of being a slave but as you say was the lack of freedom, the inability to transfer the fruit of your own labors on to your children, and sometimes we hear about a hierarchy within a slave community. with the idea that house slaves were better off than those who had to work in the fields but i think that is a debatable
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subject. if europe fields laid you put in a grueling 14 hours a day but after work the night was your own. a house servant like paul jennings could be called upon any time to service those in the big house. of course for jennings the most galling part of it was when he had to go back to washington with dolley leaving his wife and children behind and after his wife died these are motherless children. i think that was his final motivating factor to say now, not later. yes, sir. >> one thing i noticed about your book is it seems to tie historical parks that don't appear to be related.
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the rescue of the great painting of george washington. it has occurred to me for a long time that by stating that in addition to the fact that it is a great work, it would have retarded what later became the arc of u.s./british reconciliation. that is not the purpose of your book but has that occurred to you? it has occurred to me for some time. >> they will indeed have enjoyed defiling the image of the father of our country. >> maybe but mostly because it becomes a grievance. individual grievances interfering with reconciliation with between countries. >> despite the fact that it was really jennings and some of his co-workers who followed through on the actual rescue that is why i would never say is fair to give dolley madison the credit because her patriotic impulse to make sure that didn't happen that led to the rescue of the
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portrait. if you go to see one of these portraits of george washington painted by gilbert stuart there is the one in the east room that is there today because of the action of jennings and others but also another one that is in the national portrait gallery. it is 95 inches high. you don't know until you look at it was an effort of work had to be to remove it from the wall. .. >> this event was part of the 2012 national book festival in d.c. for more information visit loc.gov/bookfest. with a month left in 2012, many publications are putting
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together their year-end list of notable books. booktv will feature several of these books. these nonfiction titles were included in slate magazine's staff picks for best books of 2012. in "the man without a face," russian-american journalist marsha gessen. prettier prize-winning reporter tim wiener presents a history of the fbi's secret intelligence operationing in "enemies." in "the oath," legal analyst jeffrey toobin analyzes the relationship between the white house and the supreme court. pleasure journalist robert draper provides an inside account of the 112th united states congress in "do not ask what good we do: inside the u.s. house of representatives." in "s escape from camp 14," blaine harden recounts one man's
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escape from a north korean political prison camp. for an extended list of links to various publications 2012 notable book selections, visit booktv's web site, booktv.org, or our facebook page, facebook.com/back tv. booktv. ♪ finish. ♪ ♪ >> if we turn away from the needs of others, we align ourselves with those forces which are bringing about this suffering. >> the white house is a bully pulpit, and you ought to take advantage of it. >> obesity in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis. >> i think i just had little antennas that went up and told me when somebody had their own agenda. >> so much influence in that office, it'd be just a shame to
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waste it. >> i think they serve as a window on the past to what was going on with american women. >> she becomes the chief confidant. she's really, in a way, the only one in the world he can trust. >> many of the women who were first ladies, they were writers, a lot of them were writers, journalists, they wrote books. >> they are, in many cases, quite frankly, more interesting as human beings tan their husbands if only because they are not first and foremost defined and consequently limited by political ambition. >> dolly was both a socially adept and politically savvy. >> dolly madison loved every minute of it. mrs. monroe hated it, absolutely hated it. >> she warned her husband, you know, you can't rule without including what women want and what women have to contribute. >> and during the statement you were a little breathless, and it was too much looking down, and i
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think it was a little too fast. not enough change of pace. >> yes, ma'am. >> she's probably the most tragic of all of our first ladies. they never should have married. >> she later wrote in her memoir that she said i myself never made any decisions. i only decided what was important and when to present it to my husband. now, you stop and think about how much power that is, it's a lot of power. >> part of the battle against cancer is to fight the fear that accompanies the diseases. >> she transformed the way we look at these bug a boos and made it possible for countless people to survive and to flourish as a result. i don't know how many presidents realistically have that kind of
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impact on the way we live our lives. >> just walking around the white house grounds i am constantly reminded about all of the people who have lived there before and particularly all of the women. >> first ladies, influence and image. a new series on c-span produced in cooperation with the white house historical association. starting president day, february 18th. >> host: tubes is the fame of the book, a journey to the center of the internet is the subtitle, and the author is andrew blum. he joins us this week on "the communicators." mr. blum, why did you travel to milwaukee when you were researching "tubes"? >> guest: well, the big challenge for me at the beginning was to try to make our virtual world as tangible as possible, and when i found out one of the major maps of the internet called telegeography
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was actually printed at a big printing press in milwaukee, that they actually made the effort to travel there, to sort of go and watch this thing come off this giant school bus-sized machine, that seemed like a great way into the story of figuring out not only where the internet is, but also trying to sort of meditate a bit and come to terms with what is still physical about our virtual world. and it turned out that one thing that is still, of course, physical is very large printing presses and, strangely enough, very large printing presses that print maps of the internet. so i followed my map maker, a guy named marcus, to see this map actually come off the press. >> host: is there a center of the universe when it comes to the internet? >> guest: there is, although i should say there isn't just one center, there are, i like to say, act a dozen buildings around the world that are by far the most important places of the internet. they are the places where more
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networks of the internet connect to each other than anywhere else, and they're mostly in places you'd expect; new york, london, frankfurt, tokyo, with a couple of really interesting outliers. and in the outliers was a lot of my story, places like ashford, virginia, where if you ask the network engineers that i spent a lot of time with, they would say, oh, new york, london, los angeles, ashburn, not as if it were this tiny suburb. so it's a surprisingly short list of places that are by far the hot spots, the kind of supernodes on the internet. >> host: what did these supernodes look like, mr. blum, when you visit them? >> guest: well, from the outside, they look a bit like you might say the loading dock of a shopping mall. they are quite generic from the outside, deliberately so. they try to hide in plain sight, at least when you're driving by them. inside some of them are in, um, are in old kind of art deco
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buildings that used to belong to western union or old telecom palaces. others are kind of, have what their operators like to call a cyberific look, kind of the aesthetic adjective of choice, meaning they kind of look like a science fiction movie, and that's deliberate. they're sort of modeled after science fiction in order to appeal to the network engineers that are deciding where to put their network connections and where to connect to other networks. so when you walk in, it's a bit like walking into a machine. inside they're incredibly loud, incredibly cold from all the air conditioners that keep the equipment cool. you often can't see the ceiling because it's obscured with cables. and there are usually cages around, you know, big steel cages maybe half the size of a hotel room that each belongs to a network, and that's where they keep their equipment securely and then run a wire up to the top of the cage and drop it down
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into the cage of another network and interconnect that way. that is the actual physical interconnection in the internet work. >> host: when you look at the infrastructure of the wires of the internet, what are those wires made of, and what are they carrying? >> guest: the -- predominantly at the centers of the internet, they are fiberoptic cables. they're often yellow fiberoptic jumper cables, this basic unit of connection. and inside of them are potentially strands of glass, and inside of that glass are pulses of light, kind of nanosecond morse code that can, that can or carry kind of at a baseline these days usually about 10 gig betts per -- gig pitts per second of data, and that's everywhere you go, you see these yellow jumper cables, and that is, again, the internet. that is the actual connection between networks.
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>> host: the fiberoptic cables, are those state of the art right now, andrew blum? >> guest: well, they are, but what's interesting is that actually the cable itself is a glass tube. it's the kind of, you know, the flickering flash light on one end and the receiver on the other where the magic happens, you could say, and what's striking is that every few years those signals are now transmitted faster. a two gig optical module it's called, the a thing about the size of a pack of wrigley's gum. this year suddenly that same strand of fiber is carrying 10 gigabytes per second. so the state of the art for the fiber itself isn't changing, it's really the pieces on either end. >> host: if you would, please define what a network is and describe it to us. >> guest: sure. this is the kind of holy grail
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in terms of understanding what the internet is. a network on the internet is known as an autonomous system, it operates autonomously. it might be of any scale, it might be a huge global network like verizon and deutsche telecoms, it might be the network of a law firm that perhaps, you know, only spans from new york to los angeles. it might be a network like facebook or google. but what's striking and necessary to understand the way it manifests itself physically is that networks carry networks. you might have a global backbone company like a level three or a tata that own the strands of glass and that own the conduits that might run perhaps beside railroad tracks across the country. you might have another company, sort of a mid-sized network services company, one called hurricane electric, that might actually illuminate those strands of glass. they might own the light. ask and then you might have a
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goldman sachs or large law firm that buys bandwidth on that glass. so it's, you know, we often talk about b the information superhighway as if the network itself were the highway. i hike to think of it more -- i like to think of it more that a given network is a car chugging along the highway side by side with other networks because there's definitely a layering going on that's crucial to understanding the way in which the networks of the internet operate individually, on a global basis, but then, of course, have to interconnect in very specific places. >> host: is there any fear that messages or whatever is being carried on those networks, through those networks could get lost such as if you took the wrong off ramp on a highway? >> guest: certainly, yeah. i mean, you know, they are encoded with their address, you know, to continue the metaphor, and sometimes those end up in the wrong place usually because, you know, it's based on trust.
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the routeing system is based on trust. it's based on a network saying i'm over here, and here are all the networks behind me. here are all the networks you can reach through me. but that announcement is not, is not, you know, is not, is not prescribed or is not really regular plaited. it's based on the competence and trust of a given network engineer. so caseally, and this actually just happened last week, a network will say, actually, you know, these networks are behind me when, in fact, they aren't. that happened most famously when pakistan telecom said, hey, i am youtube. i meant to say i'm not youtube, i meant to say you can't get to youtube from me, but i entered the string in wrong, and now the entire world is breaking down my door thinking i'm youtube. and so, really, that was what amazed me again and again, was how personal these interex-cans were -- interconnections were.
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>> host: we are talking with andrew blum. he is the author of "tubes: a journey to the center of the internet." he is also a staff writer at "wire withed" magazine. mr. blum, you described a company, level three, as ab internet backbone company. what does that mean? >> guest: they own very large physical pieces of the internet. they operate a global network meaning they have rights or might own outright strands of glass alongside a road or a railroad track, and more importantly, they own this equipment that illuminates the fibers and transmits the data and then sell that to anyone who's interested whether it could be another network, it could be a large government organization. in fact, the government is one of level three's major customers. but what they're doing is, essentially, they're allowing the internet to be global. they're the ones tar making the long distance connections and are the kind of base layer that
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then allows all of the other sort of more familiar network names that we might know, the facebooks and the googles, to ride on top of that. >> host: so, andrew blum, if somebody here in washington sent an e-mail to somebody in kenya, where -- how does that track? how does that track? >> guest: yeah. you could be -- well, it's interesting. if you asked that question two years ago, the answer would be different. today, only recently now does kenya have good, direct physical connections to the internet rather than relying on satellite transmissions. so you can be -- i can m almost guarantee you that an e-mail from washington to kenya would go through a building in ashburn, virginia, owned by a company called ec by new york stock exchange. then you could be 80% sure it would go through 60 hudson street here in lower manhattan which is one of the major nodes, the kind of, you know, international airport, you could say, for the transatlantic
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cables, the undersea cables that cross the atlantic and transmit the vast majority of information. and then i can almost guarantee you that it would go through a single building in london, a building called telehouse which is really the u.k. and europe equivalent to ashburn and 60 hudson, these two buildings in the u.s. and i know that in particular was the two cables down the east coast of africa both have their major hubs, their major nodes at telehouse in the docklands in london. and from there it's a straight shot to a landing station in mum bass saw, again, a sort of fascinating place partly because it is in the same spot as kind of the often chept port. -- the ancient port. you know, this is always the place where the international links have been made. >> host: andrew blum, when were these undersea cables that you referred to laid? and by whom?
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>> guest: well, there have been telegraph cables across z the atlantic for 150 years now. the current generation which depending on how you count whether you say individual strands or cable systems, there are about eight or or ten or some say twelve of them across the atlantic. the current generation was all laid since the broadband boom in the mid '90s in the -- i think the first one was finished in '97 until about 2002 when the last one was completed, and they're owned by a few different kinds of companies. they're owned either by very large backbone companies like level three you mentioned. they're owned by consortia of telecoms, verizon joining with british telecom joining with deutsche telecom perhaps. or a couple of them now are owned by kind of boutique companies that only own cables across the atlantic. i'm thinking in particular of the cable owned by a company
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called hibernia atlantic that bought their cable off the failure of a larger telecom in 2002, 2003, 2004 period and now are operating it almost as if it were a little airline, saying, you know, we specialize in new york to london, and we will sell you services perhaps to a large bank or to another telecom or anyone who needs high-capacity bandwidth across the atlantic. >> host: what about the pacific? what about the indian ocean? >> guest: the pacific is, again, it's a kind of similar combination of players. one interesting cable across the pacific, the unity cable, is actually partly owned by google. google owns a vast global network. they operate almost a telecom of their own, and they actually, you know, put the effort and money into partly, into building a new cable. i think it's about three years ago now that it was completed. and it speaks to the importance of this physical infrastructure. it speaks to the need of large
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internet companies to really have as much control as possible with their links. and that's, um, you know, that ends up sort of with interesting consequences for the way in which the network operators talk about their geography. another important cable across the atlantic and pacific and the indian ocean is owned by toxic communications. the communications -- the big indian industrial conglomerate. and what i like about them is they're really big on marketing their kind of around-the-world capabilities. they say we have a belt around the world. if something might happen to our cable in the pacific f there's an underwater land side or an anchor is dragged across it breaking it, we will send your bits around the other way, from the west to the east or the east to the west. and that kind of global geographic imagination was something that fascinated me ant the people who -- about the people who build these networks and imagine what they should be.
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>> host: so, andrew blum, a lot of redundancy around the world in network connections? >> guest: indeed, yeah. i spent a lot of time with network engineers, and they are a cautious, you know, precise, extremely competent group. they're always forced to, you know, do the most with the least, like a lot of people, but there is still a very strong telecom tradition of really building really robust networks. and then, of course, there are those companies that are, you know, picking and choosing from other people's networks and sort of assembling a global network of their own by leasing capacity on different lines. my favorite example there, i used to say this sort of half jockingly, but if the internet ever went down, the most robust network of all would be goldman sachs global network, and that sort of came vividly true with hurricane sandy last week in new york, two weeks ago now, when all of lower manhattan was dark
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except for the goldman sachs tower because of the effort put into insuring that their infrastructure is as robust and fail-safe as possible. >> host: so, andrew blum, why is it that goldman sachs had that electricity and power going on when, like you said, the rest of manhattan, 60 hudson street being dark? did 60 hudson go down as well? because i know we had a lot of problems even sending e-mails from new york to washington and getting those connectioned. >> yeah. 60 hudson like, essentially, every other pay your internet building in new york, switched over successfully to diesel power. the week before last the internet in new york ran on diesel. it was just as simple as that. they all have these backup generators. when you visit one of these big internet buildings, there's always the point in the tour when you come to the school bus, this kind of hot, still room filled with an enormous, you
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know, perhaps four megawatt diesel generator. and last week in the case of 60 hudson, in the case of 111 ace avenue, a building that's actually owned entirely by google, in both those cases the generators did successfully switch over, and the internet was running on diesel. there were a couple stories of data centers in manhattan that did not success friday switch over -- successfully switch over. in one prominent example, a data center that brought down a lot of web sites, a lot of well known web sites, the fuel pump was in the basement. and if the fuel perform is in the basement and the basement's flooded, you can attempt to have a bucket brigade of diesel fuel up the stairs, but that's a tough thing to do with the scale of power these buildings need. >> host: how reliant is the global internet on satellite these days? >> guest: minimally. minimally. it's, essentially, a technology of last resort for the internet.
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you use it if there is no possibility of direct physical can connections. and there are, you know, fewer and fewer places in the world, fewer and fewer countries that do not now have redundant physical connections. that's, you know, most remarkably that's africa. the last two or three years now have seen b six new cables where previously there was only one. so as much as possible people are eager to move away from satellite not only because of the high cost and the relatively low bandwidth, but because of what's known as the latency, the actual time delay in making that 30,000-mile trip to space and back. >> host: so, mr. blum, these centers, 60 hudson avenue, london, etc., ashburn, virginia, are these when it comes to cybersecurity, would these be prime targets? >> guest: no. i don't think they would be.
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i mean, i take cybersecurity very seriously, but i think the far greater concern is the threat through the networks, not the threat to the physical infrastructure itself. these are buildings that are relatively well secured. they're buildings that also operate redundantly with each other. you know, if you're two major networks, say google and comcast having to interconnect your networks, you'll set it up so you're connecting in los angeles and san francisco, and you're also connecting, you know, a paired connection in new york and washington, and ashburn or 60 hudson, or in google's case, case,111 8th and ashburn. that's the recollection that, yes, god forbid, there might be an attack, but i don't think the network's losing a lot of sleep over. they're not good targets from a cybersecurity standpoint.
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there's worry -- they're highly secure because of concerns about theft, both theft of this very expensive equipment and theft of the information inside, but i was struck in talking to people and going to visit these places especially the higher up the food chain i got of people who owned and operated these buildings, the less concerned they were about talking about them, the less concerned they were about their physical security. in fact, the greater concern, you know, was ignorance. the greater concern was that if we don't know about these buildings and know, you know, what goes on inside of them and what the issues are facing those operators, the greater threat is from washington. the greater threat is that the internet will be legislated in a way that is not, that is not the best thing for the healthy functioning of the network. speaking technically. >> host: andrew blum, you maim named your book "tubes." where does that name come from? >> guest: "tubes" comes from the famous comment in 2006 by
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senator ted stevens from alaska who said, of course, that the internet is not a big truck, it's not something you can dump something on, it's a series of tubes. at the time in 2006 we all, we all made fun of him, we laughed at him. this was the height of ignorance on washington's part. this was an example of how the head of the senate committee responsible for legislating the internet really had no idea what it was. but it struck me as a fairly succinct way of describing what its physical infrastructure is. i visited a lot of places, and whenever i did, you look up at the ceiling, you look in closets, and everywhere there are these metal conld wits. i've spent a lot of time parsing the difference between a conduit and a tube, and i'm pretty sure tear the same thing. >> host: is there a place where anyone can access a map of the internet in. >> guest: sure, quite a few.
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the telegeography, in fact, now has put their paper map of specifically the undersea cables, they've now done a great online version of that map. and that speaks to a kind of broader issue. you know, the internet is not hidden. in fact, these major nodes are public in an odd way, that the people who interconnect there, the companies that own and operate them are eager for others to know who is there and how important they are. you know, there's -- it's not as if, um, this is something that everyone's hush hush about. it's quite the opposite. these are meeting points. these are places where the networks that are operating decide of them want other networks to know that they're there. >> host: mr. blum, you mentioned washington as somebody who follows technology and is a correspondent with "wired" magazine, what's your impression of washington when it comes to policy, tech policy? >> guest: i should say that i, it's not a, it's not something i
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have covered very closely at all. in fact, you know, my interest runs or more towards the way the internet smells and the history of why it is in these places rather than in one place rather than another. tubes is not about technology policy. that said, the -- what was striking to me very often was the disconnect between the way in which some of the policy discussions were happening compared to the way the network engineers i spoke with, the way they talked about them. there was a moment with the sew pa and -- sopa and pipa debate just about a year ago now where i was confused all my internet sources were not up in arms about the this. they were ignoring it. and they said it's so crazy, we couldn't do it, you know? if it actually happened, we couldn't execute it, you know? and it seemed to me as if, you know, the airline pilots were suddenly asked to fly their
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planes upside down, the disconnect was that great. i do, however, i should add have a bit of stockholm syndrome. i do now kind of see the internet through their eyes, and i have not yet, i can say sort of immersed myself in really the opposite view in the policy discussion. >> host: andrew blum, in construct of the internet we're hearing a lot about the cloud, the so-called cloud now. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: how does that fit in? >> guest: the cloud is all of it. you know, the cloud is, you know, is the marketing term for, you know, for the way in which the internet as a whole can offer business services. what that means more specifically, perhaps, is a large data center, a kind of data warehouses. perhaps not in ashburn, virginia, but in the next town over. but it's in the next town over because it has to tether in, it has to connect directly, as directly as possible to the
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distribution depot, you might say, of ashburn, virginia. you know, ashburn is a place where bandwidth is most abundant and cheapest, it's the place with the most direct connections to the most other pace -- places. and when you are dealing with the cloud, perhaps it might be your e-mail or your backup or some program you use to manage your sales force or whatever it is, you want it to operate as smoothly as possible, as much like it's sitting on your own computer. and that means being as closely tied to the major network hubs as possible. >> host: now, in our discussion in the past half hour we've talked about generators and wires and rooms with air conditioners and etc. how green is the internet? >> guest: the internet is surprisingly green. there was a bit of a hubbub a couple months ago now with, for example, "the new york times"' series on the cloud factories,
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the enormous amounts of energy consumed by some of these massive data centers. what impressed me in my visit to the internet was the efforts towards efficiency, particularly at the top of the business, particularly the googles and the facebooks and the yahoo!s all striving towards making their data centers as efficient as possible and all recognizing quite clearly that it's often more efficient to keep your stuff on, you know, in this massive machine than it is to have it on a machine, you know, sitting humming on your desk. so, you know, i -- there's a, um, a professor at stanford whose name has just escaped me but who points out, you know, information technology only uses about 2% of energy. but when you poll people about how much energy they think it uses, they'll readily say 50% because our lives are so intertwined with these machines.
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but every time you kind of look under rocks, it turns out it's quite an efficient way of doing business. >> host: and, andrew blum, if you had -- if you could or if you have aggregated the amount of investment put in the internet infrastructure, what would it be? how much? >> guest: it's not a number i have at my fingertips. i can say that a lot of the most -- the internet is robust because of the enormous amounts of money that were put into it during the broadband boom, money that then just evaporated, then was sort of lost to shareholders. but we're better off for the, that initial overbuilding. we've now entirely grown into it. >> host: so have you satisfied your curiosity about the internet? [laughter] >> guest: to a certain extent, i have. i have to say that, um, that sandy these last two weeks really reminded me of, you know, of how important and how, you
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know, intertwined and how fascinating the way in which this infrastructure we've created has sort of, you know, built itself up on our cities and on our coasts and, you know, brought me right back to square one in terms of piquing my curiosity about how all these systems fit together. not just the internet, but power and aviation and all these large, incredibly complicated things that we depend on so much. >> host: "tubes" is the name of the book, "a journey to the center of the internet," and andrew blum is the author. this is "the communicators" on c-span. >> with a month left in 2012, many publications are putting together their year-end lists of notable books. booktv will feature several of these lists focusing on nonfiction selections. these nonfiction titles were included in the los angeles public library's best of 2012. salman rushdie recounts his years in hiding following a
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fatwa issued in 1989 for mr. rushdie's authorship of the novel, "the satanic verses." in "roger williams and the creation of the american soul: church, state and the birth of liberty," john barry recounts the life of the theologian and his thoughts on the division of religion and politics. former secretary of state madeleine albright recounts her childhood in czechoslovakia during the nazi invasion in "prague winter." in bill veeck, paul dickson details the life of the advocate for racial equality and players' economic rights. damien ec cols in "life after death." for an extended links of various publications' 2012 notable book